Yasiin Bey Won’t Move Forward with Thelonious Monk Biopic Unless Jazz Pioneer’s Estate Approves of The Film

Yasiin Bey aka Mos Def attends his birthday party at Brooklyn Museum on November 16, 2019 in New York City.

Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage via Getty Images

Yasiin Bey responds to Thelonious Monk’s estate condemning a newly-announced biopic treatment of the late pianist’s life.

Yesterday, a press release issued by Jupiter Rising Film announced a Thelonious Monk biopic was in the works with Yasiin Bey set to portray the pioneering jazz pianist.

However, within hours of the news circulating, Monk’s estate, headed by his son, T.S. Monk III, condemned the film’s production. “This project and its announcement are totally unauthorized! I hate the script and I control the music in Thelonious’ catalog,” Monk III wrote in an emailed statement to Pitchfork“There is no involvement by anyone in the Monk family with this project, and we actually condemn the effort,” Monk III added.

And now, the film’s lead is seemingly pulling out until the project has the approval of the late pianist’s estate. “Let me be clear, if the Monk estate is not happy with it, if Mr. Monk III is not happy with it, then neither am I,” said Yasiin Bey in a rare dispatch posted to Instagram early Thursday morning. “I was given every indication by the production company that the family was on board. It was one of my primary questions,” Bey explained. “I took them at their word and clearly that wasn’t the case,” the Black on Both Sides rapper added, implying Jupiter Rising had misrepresented the estate’s wishes.

Bey went on to express just how much he was looking forward to the role and how central Monk’s work was to his own artistry, but refused to take part in the film without a green light from the musician’s family and estate. “I can’t lie, I’m super excited still if there’s an opportunity to tell this type of story, but in the right way and only with the estate’s approval and full involvement and acceptance,” Bey continued. “I’m tight. I haven’t done a film in a while, I haven’t had any great yearnings to do them, but this one was something I was really excited about. So perhaps another time, under better auspices, but not right now. So c’est la vie,” the rapper concluded. Jupiter Rising Film has yet to offer a comment.

You can watch Yasiin Bey’s full statement in the video below.


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